Jasmine Guillory finds her happily ever after as a romance writer

Jasmine Guillory likes HEA

As fans of romance novels know, HEA stands for “happily ever after,” a guarantee that the protagonist will find a happy version of her. And maybe sex too.

Ms Guillory, 46, whose eighth novel was published on Tuesday, said: “Romance is the perfect thing to read when things are tough.

“Even if something stressful happens in the book,” she continued, “you don’t need to worry that someone is going to die, or that the little puppy you are introduced to in the first chapter will something terrible happened.”

Her novel Guillory follows ambitious black women as they pursue success while navigating romantic complications. In Miss Guillory’s new book, “Drunt for Love,” Margot Noble, who runs a winery in Napa Valley, expresses her feelings for Luke Williams, who has left a lucrative job in Silicon Valley before he became her employee at the winery.

Ms. Guillory said some of the dialogue reflects the author’s experience. For example, when Margot was training staff to lead winery tours, she warned them to anticipate certain frequently asked questions from guests, including “’So you’re… Black, and you own a winery?’” And when Luke told Margot why he quit his job at a tech company, “Most of all, I’m tired of being one of the only black people in town. this whole place.”

“I knew these conversations were going to happen,” Guillory said, “because I have had enough of those conversations myself, working at a law firm and in many other situations. When you’re one of the few Blacks, these are the little moments you have.”

Growing up in California, she thought her own HEA meant a career as a lawyer. “If you knew Jasmine, you knew she was going to be a lawyer,” said Nicole Clouse, a longtime friend of theirs from their student days at Wellesley University. After graduating from Stanford University Law School, Ms. Guillory worked as a clerk for a federal judge and worked for a high salary at a large law firm before moving into legal aid and nonprofit work. However, something is still missing.

Credit…via Penguin

She decided to try writing. Some hopeful authors may have started with a blog. Not our heroine, who plunges into writing a teen novel in her spare time. It did not attract the interest of the publishing industry. But she continued to write.

In 2013, while dealing with health issues, she indulged in historical romance novels, including Julia Quinn’s “Bridgerton” series. Ms. Guillory said she was worried that, as an alumnus of history, she would get bogged down in research if she tried to write such a book herself. When she started reading contemporary romances, including “A Bollywood Affair” by Sonali DevShe saw her future, she said.

She joined an online Writer’s Challenge that motivates fledgling novelists to commit to writing 50,000 words in a month. In April 2015, working from an idea she sketched in the Notes app on her phone, she said she spent all her spare time getting the words on the page. “I look forward to coming home from work every day and sitting on the couch and writingshe speaks. She hit the 50,000 mark, then kept going.

By June, she had a draft of “Wedding Day,” a humorous, flirty novel about the romance between a Black woman who is chief of staff to the mayor of Berkeley, California, and a surgeon. white male child she met during that time. got stuck in the elevator during a power outage.

After revising the manuscript and sending it out the next year, she signed a contract with a literary agent, who encouraged her to work on a second novel. In 2017, Ms. Guillory signed a two-book deal with Penguin Random House.

In 2018, the publisher released “The Wedding Date”. The book received critical acclaim, and later that year, Guillory’s second novel, “The Proposal,” was about a Los Angeles writer who turned down her boyfriend’s proposal in the Stadium. Dodgers Jumbotron – spent five weeks on the New York Times bestseller. list. In 2019, Ms. Guillory left her day job.

“I didn’t quit my legal job until I knew I could support myself with writing,” she says.

The transformation surprised those who knew her, including her mother, Donna Guillory, a psychotherapist, who said she was glad her daughter had changed. “When she practiced law,” said Donna, “she had no glint in her eyes. But when she talks about her books, she absolutely does.”

Followed by more books, including “Party of two“On the relationship between a black female attorney and a white male US senator, and”According to the book“A reimagining of “Beauty and the Beast” set in the publishing world, comes out this year from a Disney book publisher, Hyperion Avenue.

When Miss Guillory rose to prominence, she joined a successful tradition of black women in the romance genre, including Beverly Jenkins and Farrah Rochon. Her books are also influenced by Terry McMillan.

“Jasmine is not the first person to present Black women as their partners, loved by friends, and successful in their careers,” says Hannah Oliver Deppowner of Bookstore for loyal customers, a bookseller with stores in Washington, DC, and Maryland. “But she was the first person the publishing industry really went after as a romance novelist and a cross-author, and she and her work were able to meet at this point. .”

Ms. Oliver Depp added that the rapid sales of Ms. Guillory’s novel – whose cover doesn’t have a cliché look – helped prove that there is a large audience for women-focused romance novels. Black skin.

“It’s always been confusing that books about black women and black love are not going to sell in a disruptive, diverse market,” said Oliver Depp. “Jasmine and her sales numbers provide an undeniably concrete example.”

Guillory’s fans include Reese Witherspoon, who made “The Proposal” a pick for her book club. The author has also signed with Ms Witherspoon’s production company, Hello Sunshine, to develop a series for Hulu based on the combination of characters and storylines in her books.

Credit…via Penguin

Roxane GayThe author of “Bad feminist” and a frequent contributor to The New York Times, said she appreciates how Guillory “makes Black women crave and also shows the diversity of Black women, with different occupations, different lifestyles and different family origin stories.” In her books, she presents “an ideal version of the world that doesn’t ignore real problems,” says Ms. Gay.

“Sometimes we need that,” she said.

Guillory, who grew up in Berkeley and lives in Oakland, said she wrote her latest book by hand, in three spiral notebooks, after experiencing part of the pandemic’s closure at one location. by a friend in California wine country.

In keeping with genre conventions, “Drunk on Love” includes sex on the way to the HEA: “But after that kiss,” Guillory writes in an early chapter, “after the way he touched her , after the way she” d touched him, she couldn’t stop looking at him – broad shoulders, long legs, toned breasts. When they were at the bar, she noticed a small strand of hair peeking out from under his shirt. She wants to see more.”

Like Guillory’s previous novels, “Drunk in Love” is filled with depictions of female friendships and career aspirations. There are also plenty of downsides that can elicit a nod of agreement with LOL from the reader. When Margot thinks she’s attracted to Luke, she tells a friend all the reasons she’s not. alike-alike him: “He can be a jerk to the waiter, or a joke with women on the internet, or tell women he likes them better without makeup.”

Readers concerned about the inappropriate behavior at work by the protagonist, Luke’s boss, are reminded that she is the creation of someone who studied employment law at Stanford. Guillory’s characters often seek affirmative consent before any clash.

Leah Koch, an owner of Split the lapela romance bookstore in Culver City, California. “People feel comfortable giving them to their grandmothers,” Ms. Koch said.

Guillory outlines the plots in her book before she writes, but the dialogue often comes mid-line. She says she’s not trying to appeal to readers who may not share her characters’ experiences.

“As I write, I don’t want to have to stop and explain, ‘This is why she did this to her hair,’ she said. “I know black people who read it will understand, and that’s who I’m writing to.”

“I’m really glad that so many other people have read my books,” she continued. “But I think there’s a lot of things that we read and understand in context and that’s how we learn. My goal is not to wander. “

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